Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in European
Law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar.
He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport
Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.
1. From the very beginning, the outcome of the ISU case was highly predictable, at
least for those who are familiar with the basics of antitrust law.
Nevertheless, more than twenty years after the Bosman judgment, the sports sector has shown the same
shortsightedness and inability to see the forest for the trees. Even this
attitude was highly predictable, at least for those who know the basics of
sports governance. The final result is a clear-cut decision capable of
influencing the entire sports movement. More...
Editor's note: We (Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval) are at the origin of today's decision by the European Commission finding that the International Skating Union's eligibility rules are contrary to EU competition law. In 2014, we were both struck by the news that ISU threatened lifetime ban against speed skaters wishing to participate in the then projected Icederby competitions and convinced that it was running against the most fundamental principles of EU competition law. We got in touch with Mark and Niels and lodged on their behalf a complaint with the European Commission. Three years after we are pleased to see that the European Commission, and Commissioner Vestager in particular, fully embraced our arguments and we believe this decision will shift the tectonic structure of sports governance in favour of athletes for years to come.
Here is our official statement:
Today is a great day for Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, but more importantly for all European athletes. The European Commission did not only consider the International Skating Union's eligibility rules contrary to European law, it sent out a strong message to all international sports federations that the interests of those who are at the centre of sports, the athletes, should not be disregarded. This case was always about giving those that dedicate their lives to excelling in a sport a chance to compete and to earn a decent living. The majority of athletes are no superstars and struggle to make ends meet and it is for them that this decision can be a game-changer.
However, we want to stress that this case was never about threatening the International Skating Union’s role in regulating its sport. And we very much welcome the exceptional decision taken by the European Commission to refrain from imposing a fine which could have threatened the financial stability of the International Skating Union. The International Skating Union, and other sports federations, are reminded however that they cannot abuse their legitimate regulatory power to protect their economic interests to the detriment of the athletes.
We urge the International Skating Union to enter into negotiations with representatives of the skaters to devise eligibility rules which are respectful of the interests of both the athletes and their sport.
Since the summer of 2014, it has been our honour to stand alongside Mark and Niels in a 'David versus Goliath' like challenge to what we always perceived as an extreme injustice. In this fight, we were also decisively supported by the team of EU Athletes and its Chance to Compete campaign.
Finally, we wish to extend a special thank you to Commissioner Vestager. This case is a small one for the European Commission, but Commissioner Vestager understood from the beginning that small cases do matter to European citizens and that European competition law is there to provide a level playing for all, and we are extremely grateful for her vision.
Dr. Ben Van Rompuy (Leiden University) and Dr. Antoine Duval (T.M.C. Asser Instituut)
Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on
International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on
our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section
below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we
might have overlooked.
September hosted the very last bit of the sport summer 2016, most
notably in the form of the Rio Paralympic Games. Next to the spectacular
achievements displayed during these games, in the realm of sports law similar
thrilling developments hit town. The first very much expected #Sportslaw
highlight was the decision by the German Bundesgerichtshof
in the case concerning SV Wilhelmshaven. The second major (less expected) story
was the Statement of Objections issued by the European Commission against the International
In June 2014, two prominent Dutch speed skaters, Mark Tuitert
(Olympic Champion 1500m) and Niels Kerstholt
(World Champion short track), filed a competition law complaint against the
International Skating Union (ISU) with the European Commission.
European Commission announced that it has opened a
formal antitrust investigation into International Skating Union (ISU) rules
that permanently ban skaters from competitions such as the Winter Olympics and
the ISU World and European Championships if they take part in events not organised
or promoted by the ISU. The Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, stated that the Commission "will
investigate if such rules are being abused to enforce a monopoly over the
organisation of sporting events or otherwise restrict competition. Athletes can
only compete at the highest level for a limited number of years, so there must
be good reasons for preventing them to take part in events."
the case originates from legal advice provided by the ASSER International
Sports Law Centre, we thought it would be helpful to provide some
clarifications on the background of the case and the main legal issues at